Amazing Grace – Bringing God’s Own Country to Nerul

Grace Restaurant in Nerul turned out to be an ode to good food. Rhea Mitra-Dalal recounts her visit to this small restaurant in Navi Mumbai.

It was one of those days when the husband had a sudden day off and I wasn’t in the mood to cook. We set out to look for lunch with the caveat that we’d go to a restaurant we’d never been to before. You know how it is… you get comfortable with that familiar handful of options and then get lazy, never going elsewhere. And slowly ennui creeps up and nothing really appeals any more. So we drove off into the afternoon sun, seeking new horizons…err, new flavours really!

I’d heard how Nerul had many interesting restaurants and decreed that we had to conduct our explorations for the afternoon in Nerul. After driving around we chanced upon Grace Restaurant – Food from God’s Own Country. Tucked into a line of shops that housed everything from a country liquor bar to a couple of general stores, Grace restaurant looked quiet and unassuming. We strolled in to a spotless space, well lit, and saw a couple of groups of young men, a family, and a bunch of office execs seated at different tables. Many of them looked like they were from God’s own country. And that was quite heartening. Like a stamp of approval, if you will.

We found ourselves a table and settled in to partake of a good meal. The ambient smells from the kitchen behind us were delicious and seemed to bode really well. We glanced at the menu but since we’re not so familiar with Keralite food beyond appams, stew, puttu, etc., we decided to ask the proprietor for recommendations. A very helpful gent, he helped us choose a lavish meal and was happy enough to describe the various dishes so we had some idea what to expect.

In a matter of minutes our table was covered in food. We had the Duck Mappas (250), Chicken Stew (INR 150), Appams (INR 10) , Porottas (INR 10), Beef Roast (INR 150), and as a last minute addition when we discovered they also serve pork – Pork Fry (INR 125). We eat out a lot and I have to say this – it was after ages that our mouths were watering insanely as the dishes were placed on our table. Talk about anticipation!

As the food arrived I was a little thrown to see the appams – they weren’t bowl shaped with the thin crepe like edges and the beautiful spongy dome shaped middle. These looked like little uttapams sans toppings and garnishes. But they were delicious! Paired with the mappas and the stew, the appams were perfect.

Suriani Appam

The stew was different from what we expected too. Yes, it was loaded with fresh green chillies, curry leaves, and was a white coconut based gravy – but it was a thick gravy, not the delicate milky one we’ve eaten everywhere else. Oh it was lovely. The mappas is similar in flavours but has plenty of turmeric and a variation in the spices used. The gravy also had ground curry leaves that left pretty green flecks. I’m not so fond of duck so I just had one little piece, but the mappas gravy was finger licking good.

The Pork Fry was sheer poetry on a plate. Fatty chunks of pork stir fried with onions, garlic, tiny bits of lethal green chillies, and of course fresh curry leaves. Clean no nonsense cooking with good ingredients, a simple dish cooked exactly like it is in most Keralite homes. The Beef Roast (carabeef) was very good too, just  chunks of roast beef smothered in a spicy sauce. We had both these dishes with Porottas, hot off the griddle. It’s a good thing this restaurant is a few kilometres away from where we live because I can totally see my husband sitting there nearly every day scarfing down a porotta or three with a portion of fry or roast, his nose buried in a book, and an aura of deep content glowing gently around him.

Kerala Pork Fry

We ended the meal with a portion of Paayasam. This one had thin slivers of roasted coconut, cardamom powder, and plenty of black sesame seeds.

After this mega meal as we chatted with the proprietor, we asked about the appams and the stew and why they were different from what we’d encountered earlier. He said they followed the Syrian Christian recipes and this is how their food turns out. Subtle differences in what we tend to think of as one single cuisine – Kerala, just like other states, also has regional variations, and we’d just had the good luck to taste one.

Not only is the food really good the prices, if you’ve noticed, are very reasonable, making Grace Restaurant an attractive option for the palate and the pocket.

Would I go back to Grace Restaurant? I already have.

Grace RestaurantShop no 13, F-2 Type Building, Opp Bank of Maharashtra, Sector 3, Nerul East, Navi Mumbai., Tel – 9869206251